North Carolina forums aim to simplify solar energy installations

NC's Museum of Natural Sciences.North Carolina’s solar energy industry has been growing but it could be simpler and more effective if there was a guide or roadmap to going solar, supported and adopted by municipalities across the state. That’s what the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) and the North Carolina Solar Center are trying to do through a series of forums designed to bring stakeholders across the state together, from landowners to solar installers, farmers, state and local officials and more. The organizations held their first three-hour forum last Friday (May 31) at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science’s Nature Research Center and plan to hold four more forums. 

North Carolina is one of the most active southeast states for solar. For instance, Apple is installing its second 20 megawatt PV farm there, and others are increasingly looking to the state for larger solar projects. NC SEA observed that the state’s seen “dynamic growth” in PV there with much of it in rural regions. But, despite that, “Still, there is limited education for the general public, land owners, and local governments on facilitating this type of development in a way that harmonizes with local needs,” the organization said.

“This forum demonstrated the tremendous interest that is out there on the technical, social, and environmental aspects of solar projects,” said Miriam Makhyoun, manager of market intelligence for NCSEA. “The knowledge being shared at this event and the others to come can serve as a blueprint to make sure everyone wins in the communities where solar energy projects are located.”

The events are working towards creating a template ordinance for solar energy projects that multiple municipalities can enact to make going solar easier and quicker. “The eventual product will be the Southeast’s first-of-its-kind guide for harmonizing the elements included in the permitting of solar energy facilities, offering a path that could facilitate solar project development for companies and landowners while simultaneously creating a framework for the inclusion of local values and interests,” NCSEA said.
“The Solar Development and Siting forums bring together a wide cross section of stakeholders to discuss the issues and challenges facing solar projects, with the goal of developing a template solar ordinance for North Carolina that can be adapted and adopted by counties and municipalities across the state,” said Tommy Cleveland, solar engineer with NC Solar Center.
The next three meetings will be held this summer, with the next in Greensboro on June 27, followed by one in Lumberton on July 16 and the fourth in Asheville on August 8. A final meeting will be held in Charlotte in late October, after which a draft template ordinance will be created.